MILLVILLE, Minn. (July 13) -- There's a little patch of land in Western Michigan that past world champion Mike LaRocco likes to call home. GEICO Honda's Lites riders have been calling that same area hell for the last 10 days.
Justin Barcia, Eli Tomac, and Wil Hahn stayed in Michigan during the off-week following the RedBud National for some intensive training, riding, and team building under the watchful eye of LaRocco - GEICO Honda team manager, motocross legend, and wouldbe drill instructor.
"We're all joking that when we grow up we want to be tough like Rock," Barcia said. "Man, he's been killing us. It's not Camp LaRocco, it's boot camp. I thought about puking every day because he was pushing us that hard. We rode against each other in 40-minute motos, then he had us riding sand dunes, then we'd hit the gym. It was brutal."
LaRocco said while he doesn't expect miracles to happen at this weekend's Spring Creek National, the next stop in the Lucas Oil AMA Motocross Championship tour, he does hope his young riders changed their perspective.
"I was brought up to believe that when you train, the race should be the easiest part of the week," LaRocco said. "I don't doubt these guys train, but since I'm not there with them all the time, I don't know how they train.
"I got the impression that the races themselves have been the hardest part of the first six outdoor races so I thought they should know what real training should be."
LaRocco added that, griping aside, the camp feel did a lot to forge a tighter team bond.
"It's tough trying to build team unity and keep it competitive at the same time," LaRocco said. "I wanted everyone to come out of here stronger - if not physically, at least mentally. I think at the end of it everyone was significantly improved on both ends.
"You can't duplicate keeping them together, pushing each other. No matter what we did, the guys pushed each other through it and that's going to pay big dividends."
Despite all the sweat and toil, Barcia said he enjoyed himself.
"It kind of turned into a cool deal," Barcia said. "It was fun racing with my teammates and becoming better friends with them. We had time to hang out and talk. It was all good. We definitely won't be complaining about the races anymore."
Hahn, who returned to action after missing all of the Supercross season and the first five Motocross events, knows the extreme competition of riding against Tomac and Barcia helped him a great deal.
"Those two guys have shown they're two of the best riders in the world," Hahn said. "To have them as teammates is huge for me. I felt pretty happy to have two good motos at RedBud after being off the bike for so long, but I realized I needed speed. Justin and Eli have incredible speed so having them push me at LaRocco's place was very positive."
Kevin Windham, who has been riding a 450cc for the American Honda team this season, will make his return to Millville this weekend in full GEICO regalia.
"Everything comes full circle this weekend," Windham said. "It was one year ago at this event when I came back to the outdoors in place of Davi Millsaps, who was injured. Now I've made the full circuit of outdoor races in the last year, and I think that's pretty cool because I had another chance to see all the tracks, hang out with the fans everywhere, and race.
"Millville's always been a favorite stop for me, mostly because the people there are so supportive of me. They really make a guy feel good, and quite honestly I need that boost right now because the summer heat is starting to kick my butt. I heard it's gonna be hot up there so I'll need my fans to pull me through. I'm looking forward to it."
Practice at Spring Creek gets under way at 8:30 p.m. CDT on Saturday, with opening ceremonies starting at 12:40 p.m.
FUEL TV will show the First Motos in both the 450 and 250 classes starting at 2 p.m. EDT on Saturday. The second 450 moto will be shown on SPEED at 11 p.m. EDT Saturday with the 250 finale to be shown at 6 p.m. Sunday.